Friday, May 14, 2021

Did you throw away your stimulus debit card?

by TERRI DICKERSON/ CDA Press Consumer Gal
| January 21, 2021 1:00 AM

With so many scams going around it’s no wonder some people thought the debit cards they received were fake. But it turns out that about 8 million people are getting a debit card as their stimulus payment rather than a direct deposit or paper check.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve received dozens of calls and emails from concerned readers who thought the debit card they received in the mail was a scam, so they threw it away. But now they're finding out that these cards were legitimate Economic Impact Payments, aka stimulus payments from the IRS preloaded with their balance. Now what?

If you threw away your card, call the IRS Stimulus Payment Hotline at 800-919-9835.

According to the IRS website, this is a hotline where you're supposed to get a live person who will help you figure out what steps to take to get your payment. If you aren’t able to get through on the hotline, try calling Metabank, which is the U.S. Department of Treasury’s financial agent, at 800-240-8100.

The envelopes containing the cards are plain white showing the US Treasury Seal and “Economic Impact Payment Card.” The envelope will also have the following notation: “Not a bill or an advertisement, important information about your economic impact payment.”

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PayPal dispute resolution questioned

Credit cards are usually a great method of payment because of the protections they offer, but if you use your credit card for a PayPal purchase, you might want to tread carefully. The protections aren't as robust as it seems in their service description.

I learned of a recent situation where a consumer ordered an item and paid for it with his credit card through PayPal. When the item arrived, he was disappointed with the quality and felt it did not live up to the description as portrayed by the seller.

He contacted the seller and received no help to return and/or refund the item so he contested the charge with his credit card issuer. The card issuer refused to help the consumer, stating that PayPal had “verified” the transaction so it was valid. PayPal offered no assistance in undoing the transaction either, so the consumer was stuck with an unsatisfactory item.

This is disappointing because according to PayPal’s guidelines, if you receive an item different than the seller described, you can open a dispute through their resolution center to get your money back. You have 180 days from the transaction date to initiate a dispute.

According to PayPal’s guidelines, you have 20 days from the date you open the dispute to resolve the matter with your seller. If your seller isn’t responding or you can’t come to resolution, you can escalate the dispute to a claim.

If you do end up escalating your dispute, PayPal will review it and decide the outcome. PayPal will correspond with you via email if they need additional information.

With PayPal determining the outcome, it appears they also decide if the item is significantly different than described.

I have heard similar stories when a charge went through a third-party payment processor so this consumer’s situation is not isolated. Another thing that makes resolving these disputes difficult is that many online services don't offer a way to speak directly to a person to explain the particulars of a situation, which can make communication difficult.

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Scammers impersonate FTC boss

Scammers are now pretending to be Joe Simons from the Federal Trade Commission with the latest coronavirus relief fund scam. The scam works like this:

You'll get an email that looks like it came from Joe Simons of the FTC. It provides you with the enticing news that you're getting coronavirus relief money. The email even includes a fake certificate to convince you this is a legitimate offer.

If you reply, you’ll be notified that you will have to pay taxes before you get your money. The scammers even include a fake letter from the IRS stating this to be the case.

If you pay these so-called taxes, you'll then be told you must pay the State Department for a certificate that proves the funds are not related to any terrorist activity and the money is cleared for you to receive.

Finally, if you pay the State Department, you'll be sent a fake remittance order showing that the money is on its way to your bank account.

As you’ve probably suspected, the money never shows up in your account.

Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself against imposters:

*Be suspicious of any call, email, text or letter from a governmental agency asking for money or information.

*Don’t trust caller ID; we all know by now numbers can be spoofed.

*Never pay with a gift card or wire transfer. Anyone who asks you to pay this way is always a scammer.

*Check with the real entity. Look up the number independently and call to verify if they're trying to reach you;

*If in doubt, do not give out your bank account or other financial information.

While Joe Simons is the chairman of the FTC, he did not send you the email. Also, the FTC does not distribute coronavirus economic stimulus money the IRS does. Report any fraudulent contact to the FTC at

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Remember: I’m on your side.

If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.